Whether you’re asking out of curiosity or you’re trying to figure out a target for your own performance, it’s a great question… exactly how long can a person run without stopping?
Dean Karnazes managed to go 348 miles (560 km) without sleeping, and ultramarathon runners occasionally run upwards of 50 miles without stopping depending on the terrain. Running a marathon (26.2 miles) without stopping is already exceptional and is an attainable goal for many runners.
In this article, we want to answer your burning questions. So, we are going to take a deep dive into the subject of how to run without stopping. We also want to give you some advice based on our experience, and for this, we are going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to improve how far you can run without stopping. So, let’s get into it.
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How Long Can Beginners Run Without Stopping?
The answer to this depends on how you define stopping (see this section in our article, below)
Let’s try and answer this question without considering the top performers for a minute.
With as little as 2 months of training (or less), a beginner runner can run as far as a 5k (3.1 miles) without any breaks or walking.
With as little as 6 months of training (or less), a beginner runner can run 10 miles without stopping.
With as little as a year of training (or less), a beginner runner can run a half marathon without stopping.
With as little as 2 years of training (or less), a beginner runner can run a full marathon without stopping.
2 years of constant practice of anything isn’t a small thing–in fact there is a high likelihood for injury that will set you back, especially for beginners as you explore your body’s capabilities.
The key to setting your own goal is to know your body’s capabilities. If you are coming from a place of a low fitness level, then the time frames may be a bit different for you.
The first goal is to start with at least one mile without stopping. However, many new runners struggle to do so. If you can’t run a mile without stopping, then you should pace yourself over and over again. Now I don’t advise that you only run one mile, but every time you start your run, you should try and get further and further without stopping until you hit the one-mile mark.
If you need to take a break after that, no problem. Remember though, taking a break at specific points of your run can become a habit, and you will need to fight the urge to take breaks when you do not necessarily need one.
Is It Bad to Stop During a Run?
Seasoned professionals will tell you the importance of motivation when it comes to running. Remember, running is not a risk-free activity. You can hurt yourself, and if you overexert yourself, you increase the risk. So, is it wrong to take breaks while running? Let’s take a look.
If you need to take a break while running, you should. There is no point in overdoing things.
In my experience, though you should not completely stop when you take a break. Instead, you should slow down to a brisk walk and use that time to catch your breath.
When you take a break, the last thing you want to do is stop because your muscles and mind lose momentum and your muscles actually can start feeling pain. It is often the root cause of why your muscles feel sensitive after exercising. If you keep moving you don’t feel that pain as much, so what does this mean?
Once you start to feel the muscle pain, it becomes challenging to get yourself going again. You basically have to warm up your muscles to get to the point where you don’t feel the stiffness and muscle soreness anymore. One piece of advice, if your legs feel stiff after taking a short break, you want to try and slap them or at least massage them while you are running if you can.
What Happens if You Stop Running Suddenly?
To understand what happens to your body if you stop running suddenly, you need to understand what happens while working out. The human body is a complicated system that is constantly working to keep us going. So, let’s take a look at what happens to your body while training and then what happens when you stop suddenly.
When you run, your blood cells take in more oxygen, which means they expand. They do this so that they can carry more oxygen to your organs, particularly to your brain. This increased oxygen intake is how people do not get tired or out of breath too quickly while training.
However, if you are running and suddenly stop, the blood cells are still expanded, and this can cause a head rush. I’m sure this has happened to a lot of people before. In fact, the increased oxygen in your cells is one explanation for the euphoria and tingling sensation that someone feels once they have stopped running.
You can apply this concept to almost every sport. It is essential to note that although stopping suddenly is not dangerous, it is the slight dizziness that could pose a hazard if you are out in traffic or close to a sidewalk, so try to avoid stopping too quickly.
Should you Run or Walk on Your Cooldown?
Believe it or not, there’s not much science to support that a cooldown actually makes a difference. You’ve probably seen it all over the internet that an active cooldown helps flush out lactic acid, but it’s actually controversial whether lactic acid is a bad thing in the first place. This study found, in fact, that lactic acid didn’t lead to muscle soreness.
This study, in particular found that cooldowns didn’t help prevent injury. However, it did find it possible that a cool down might help a runner with their run the next day.
Can You Stop During a Marathon?
It is absolutely acceptable to take a break while running a marathon. You can set goals to run farther without stopping, but the marathon still counts if you have to walk for a bit.
A marathon runner trains for a very long time before they do the actual marathon. They train themselves not only to run at a good pace but to run at a steady pace. So, if you are thinking about running a marathon, it’s not always about training yourself to run far. You need to focus on techniques to help you get there.
Many marathon runners do not stop at all for the entirety of the race. They just keep going. However, there are many individuals who stop for various reasons. Remember, if you are running and need to take a break, it is good and encouraged to do so. The race is really only for yourself–it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. (Unless of course you are going for 1st place)
While you should push yourself to your limit, you should never push yourself to an unhealthy degree.
Also, marathon runners often have the right equipment to deal with whatever conditions they have to deal with on the day. While they are running, they are doing so comfortably, giving them more time to focus on their breathing, pace, technique, and much more.
How to Improve How Long You Can Run without Stopping: 6 Steps
When you start running, it is no shame to take breaks during your runs. Also, it would be best if you never overdid it. I have seen so many people walk around with shin splints and have to put off their training for a few weeks as they start.
If you’re interested in a training plan for running a half marathon, check out our article, here.
There is nothing worse than having to stop training when you start, and if you don’t watch out for certain things, you can hurt yourself. So, while it is great that you want to run a few miles without stopping, I recommend doing so in baby steps. Remember, it’s more of a mental game than anything else, and so, here are our six easy steps to teaching yourself how to run without stopping.
Consistency is first on the list because it is key to your success. If you spend two weeks running and take a week off, you would have put yourself back in terms of your progress. Instead, you should try and set a schedule and run at least 3 or 4 times a week.
Also, it would be best if you were consistent with your route. Stick to your same route because this will help you better judge whether or not you’re making any progress to getting further without having to stop.
Stretch and Warm-Up
Stretching and warming up isn’t strictly necessary–there actually isn’t a lot of evidence that light warm ups have much performance benefit, but if it gets you into the exercise mindset, then it may be just what your body needs.
This study actually found that explosive and dynamic warmups made a difference for mid-distance running performance.
Pacing yourself is also vital. Remember, if you try and sprint a mile, you will struggle to finish the rest of your run, and you end up stopping a lot more than you should. If you take your time and pace yourself, especially on the first mile or two, you will have to take fewer breaks throughout the entirety of the run.
If your goal is to run a set amount of miles without stopping, it is best to do this so at a steady pace instead of trying to beat a particular time.
Stay Mentally Strong
So, if you have been running for two weeks and you struggle to get past the two-mile mark without stopping for a break, well, your body becomes used to it. This means that even though you have become fitter, your body still wants to stop around a certain point because our bodies adapt to our routines.
It would be best if you fought the urge to stop, and it requires a lot of willpower because your body can try its best to trick you into stopping. What I found works is just to keep going, and once you pass the point where your body tries to tell you to stop, you have an easier road ahead of you.
I know it sounds cliché to say “keep going.” However, in this case, it is 100% true.
Breathing correctly is extremely underrated amongst beginner runners and most beginner athletes. Even a few mistakes when it comes to your breathing could significantly impact the overall performance of your run.
Breathing is also a part of pacing yourself, or at least it helps you to do so. Remember to take deep breaths and breathe out slowly.
I personally like to find breathing rhythms, like breathing out for 2-4 steps (depending how tired I am) and breathing in for 1-2 steps. This breathing rhythm helps my body feel regulated to move forward.
Try To Go Farther on Every Run
If your run is only two miles, but you usually take a break every half mile, try and push yourself to only stop at .75 mile. After that, on your next run, try to go to a full mile.
Repeating this process will get you to the point where you can run an entire mile without stopping. It’s entirely reasonable you should end up running 5 or even 10 miles without slowing down or stopping. Be patient and take baby steps.
Follow The 10% Rule
The 10% rule stipulates that you should never increase your mileage by more than 10% per week. I know you might be thinking, well, isn’t it better to do more miles even if it means I have to stop during the run? Well, no, not exactly. It mostly depends on what your goals are.
See, sticking it to the 10% rule, and trying your best to make sure that you don’t have to stop during the entirety of your run helps you get rid of a habit, or if you are a beginner, it helps you prevent developing one.
Increasing your mileage too quickly is not only bad for you, it often means that you will take more breaks. Taking breaks becomes a bad mental habit.
Can HIIT Improve Your Running?
We recently wrote an extensive article talking about high-intensity interval training and how it can improve your long-distance running. Now, if you are trying to do even a two-mile run without stopping and struggling, one of the best things you can do is schedule a few HIIT training sessions amongst your regular schedule.
High-intensity interval training boosts your cardiovascular system by increasing your lung capacity and strengthening your cardiovascular muscles. At the same time, you work on your core muscles while also your upper and lower body as well.
We have a few articles to learn more about high-intensity interval training, but I recommend reading this article first. Once you have gone through it, you can start incorporating this phenomenal training routine into your schedule, and you will notice progress faster than you have ever noticed before.
How to Increase Your Lung Capacity While Running
Increasing your lung capacity is another way of saying “increasing your endurance”, at least to some extent.
Increasing the amount of oxygen that your lungs can take in means that you get more oxygen in your bloodstream and to your brain, overall improving your endurance.
There are thousands of different techniques that you can use to improve your breathing, but here are just a few of our favorite, and spoiler, HIIT training is first on that list.
- Steady breathing while running: Try to focus as much as you can on it.
- Spend five minutes per day doing breathing exercises: Breath in, hold your breath, repeat.
- Swimming is one of the best ways of increasing your lung capacity
- Stay hydrated
- Try to eat healthily
- Don’t smoke
As mentioned, there are thousands of techniques, but those are my favorite.
What’s Considered Stopping During a Race?
It seems like it would be completely straightforward what stopping is during a race, but different people hold themselves to different standards than others.
For example, some runners believe walking at all during a race is considered stopping your run, while others completely disagree.
I decided to ask a group of runners what they thought about this and got these results:
|Choice||Percentage of People Who Thought It Was Considered Stopping|
|Slowing Down To a Very Slow Jog||1%|
|Resting for 5 Minutes||32%|
|Pausing at an Aid Station||7%|
You can see from these data that 31% of people personally consider walking as stopping. Although some people consider slowing down to a very slow jog as stopping, most people feel that counts.
Some people (7%) consider pausing at an aid station stopping, as well, so people have very different feelings on the matter.
If you consider walking as stopping, then there are very exceptional ultra-marathoners who can run the entire run without stopping. If you believe that slowing down to a very slow jog is stopping then the number goes even lower.
However, if you think as long as you keep moving is what counts, then the distance of how long someone can run without stopping becomes a lot more inclusive.
Look, the fact that you have read this article entirely means that you are serious about improving your running performance. I take my hat off to you because running takes dedication and motivation, so not everyone is willing to put in the time and effort.
I hope that your key takeaway is that no matter what level you are at, you can constantly improve your performance. Also, even if you’ve been running for weeks but still cannot run a mile without stopping, you know that eventually, with hard work, the right mentality, and some structured training, you can get there.